This week's blog post is written by Susan Hunter of Bodie Design Studio.
Making jewelry came to me through love. I met a special person later in my life that re-sparked a creative and curious heart that had been dormant for years.
Stephen Manteca was driven by art all his life. Stephen was at one time a painter and gallery owner and collector in his varied career with side jobs that took him away from his first love of art. After we met we went to galleries and museums and openings. On one special occasion there was a reception for his friend Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the poet and painter, who was signing a new book at the latter’s studio. Stephen was a bon vivant on a budget with a wicked and original sense of humor living in a rent-controlled apartment in North Beach. It was a wonderful time. We enrolled in community college art classes - he in pottery and me in drawing and design. And then jewelry. I was very curious about it and wanted to learn how the fabrication process worked so I signed up for a class. He was so supportive and insightful in my endeavor.
He patchworked jobs together as best he could but was having more difficulty doing so and his speech started to slur. His gait was changing as well. It was apparent that he needed to go to a doctor about this, that something was not right. It was about that time that we were married. A month after we were married he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). He was given two to five years to live. No cure.
We collapsed into tears. But Stephen said we had to be strong so we were. We kept each other upright and brought him as much life as we could in the little time that remained. I can’t explain how we got through that but somehow we did. Friends and family rallied together to support both of us. There were angels who touched our lives and kept us going.
And then he died. This was a time in my life I don’t revisit often because it was so painful and I still cry. But in keeping with Stephen’s artful life and his wish to be remembered I wanted to create something that would honor him. Our dear friend and jewelry designer Marty Bobroskie showed me how to fashion a piece of jewelry from wax (via the lost wax casting process). From that experience I made a rather clunky yet sincere piece dedicated to Stephen called Kick ALS. In 2005 the price of silver was around $11 per troy ounce so I had a mold prepared and was able to have multiples made to use as fund-raisers at the ALS Walks in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was no Ice Bucket Challenge, but I managed to raise a few dollars.
I found the process of creating something from the heart to be healing so I continued to make other pieces in wax. There was a series I called the Trees of Golden Gate Park which were inspired by leaves from various trees that were imported into the sands of what became Golden Gate Park. Other designs have followed since then, and I enjoy the fabrication process even though it can be a frustrating one. I’m still practicing, enjoy it all, feel grateful for the opportunity to be able to do it and place those pieces at Artistic Portland.
Several years after Stephen died I was very lucky to meet a kind and perceptive man who was also encouraging and supportive of my artful endeavors. He is the happy endnote to my story and I just want to share that I married him.